Dracula and His Creator
You can never go wrong with a vampire costume for Halloween. It’s an all-time favorite. And the popular ones are always Draculaesque versions.
As writers and readers, let’s think about that for a moment. Bram Stoker died in April 1912, so, over a hundred years ago and his fictionalized character—Dracula—is still the most famous vampire in history. And there has been a lot of competition, especially in the 21st century—Wrath, Lestat, Bill Compton, Edward, the brothers: Stefan and Damon, as well as others.
So, why does this character, written over 100 years ago, still stand strong? He was villainous to the core, but we are still drawn to him. Why is that? What did Bram Stoker put into Dracula’s character work to make this monster tick? Did Bram put some of himself into Dracula? Do we see some of ourselves in the monster as well?
Let’s do a few comparisons between Bram and Drac.
Many Stoker biographers reported he died of syphilis. It’s easy to see the similarities between vampirism and a disease like syphilis and imagine the guilt and concern Bram was burdened with over possibly infecting his wife.
Bram Stoker married actress Florence Balcombe in 1878. She was previously engaged to Oscar Wilde. From all accounts, she and Bram shared a deep love for each other. We see those intense emotions written into Jonathan’s feelings for Mina.
Also, Bram Stoker tied his own Irish heritage into his character and the story. Since Dracula is Eastern European, you may not have noticed the author’s Celtic roots in the story, but I assure you they are there. Stoker actually wrote his first draft of Dracula while he was a guest at Slains. The Slain castle in Aberdeenshire Scotland, is often considered an inspiration for Dracula’s castle in the book.
On his mother’s side, Bram Stoker was a direct descendent of ’Manus O’Donnell (Manus ‘the Magnificent), the Irish clan chief, who led a rebellion against Henry VIII in the 16th century.
So, Dracula’s backstory of a man with a great past as a warrior and ruler, now displaced by the passage of history, living in the shadows, is also the backstory of Bram Stoker’s ancestry.
It has been said that as a little boy in Ireland, Bram Stoker’s mother often
told him stories, including scary tales. They must have included Irish folk
lore. There are many tales of dark vampiric fey in Celtic mythology. These dark
fey are often extremely beautiful and seductive. The vampiric fey, the baobhan
sith, always roamed together as sisters. In Dracula, Bram Stoker’s description
of the three sisters in the vampire’s castle seems similar to dark Celtic fey.
Two were dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes that seemed to be almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how or where. All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and, at the same time, some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth. They whispered together, and then they all three laughed—such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It was like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of water-glasses when played on by a cunning hand. The fair girl shook her head coquettishly, and the other two urged her on. One said:“Go on! You are first, and we shall follow; yours is the right to begin.” The other added:“He is young and strong; there are kisses for us all.”
Because Bram Stoker pulled deep from within his own history and wrote emotion and human pain into his book, Dracula, we connect with the horrors he created. We can see bits of ourselves in the monster …and that is what makes Dracula the scariest of all.
Maybe this Halloween, I’ll go as a female version of Bram Stoker. I’ll have to get a fake beard and mustache and a short-straight-hair wig. The 1900s-style man’s suit and tie won’t be hard to find. No one will know who I’m supposed to be, but that might be the funnest part. I can take pictures with all the people dressed like vampires.
All the while, I’ll be quietly thinking, Bram, wherever your spirit is, I just want you to know your best written character is still alive and well. You did it. You achieved what all authors dream of. May he live on in our minds for centuries to come.
Have a fang-tastic Halloween everyone.
“What?” Mordak asked. Me? Love a human? Of course not. “By the goddess, you’ve lost your minds. I just want this one’s blood for myself. Run along, get your own. We’ll meet at the portal before dawn.”
“See you back at the cairn.” Fuamnach tilted her chin in the air and vanished.
Aithbhreac disappeared as well.
Mordak shifted her eyes back to the mortal. His mere presence commanded attention. What would be wrong with having a tryst with him? Goddess Morrigan has affairs with humans all the time.
I thought they’d never leave. She fixed her gaze on the tall, striking man, and swinging her hips in a saucy fashion, she sauntered toward him. As she “drew near him, she batted her eyelashes and flashed a smile to draw him in. Dancing with him would be even more fun than usual.
A noisy, whoosh-like, shaking sound caught her attention. What now? She gasped with shock. This cannot be.
Three women descended from the ebony sky with the wings on their bronze helmets flapping like a bird’s.
What is happening? She hadn’t drunk any heather ale today.
“The vanilla-blond women landed smoothly on their feet, the wings stopped flapping and laid back on their helmets, now totally still. All three women glared at her with glacier blue eyes.
Her palms were damp with sweat, she felt shaky. The earthly realm was such a crazy place. Why did she send her sisters away? She needed them now. Whoever or whatever these tall creatures in plate armor corselets, flimsy white skirts and fur-topped boots were, they weren’t smiling at her.
She noticed the human checking out the women from the rear and glancing at her as well. He had a huge grin on his face, as if his dreams had come true. Mordak, however, faced a nightmare.
The statuesque blonde in the center tilted her chin in the air. “The man is mine.”
“Yours?” Anger pulsated through Mordak’s body. “He’s not yours.”
People couldn’t just fly down from who knows where and claim the man she liked. Mordak schooled her face into composure and met the woman’s gaze. “Just who or what…are you?”
“Randgrid.” The tallest of the blondes didn’t break her stare, not even one blink. “I am a Valkyrie.”
With a thin, tight-lipped expression, she set her hand on her hip. “Be gone, baobhan sith.”
“Me. No, no…you’re the one in the wrong place.” Mordak shook her hand at the Valkyrie. “This is Scotland, not Denmark or Valhalla or wherever you think you are.”
“He’s a Gunn.” Randgrid jerked her head toward the man. “So, he is ours.”
“Of Clan Gunn?” She glared at the silly woman in the winged helmet. “The word clan is the whole point. He’s Scottish. He’s mine.”
Randgrid and her two sisters said together, “Gunn is the point. The descendant of a Viking hero is ours.”